tv Book Discussion CSPAN December 28, 2014 1:00pm-2:01pm EST
we feature the 1965 episode of "the big picture" narrated by actor paul newman. december marks the 70th anniversary of the world war ii battle of the bulge and the film chronicles the story of the 84th infantry division during the battle including american and german veterans reflecting on their experience. that is today at 4:00 eastern on c-span3's american history tv. >> president obama announced major changes to american policy towards cuba including restoration of full diplomatic relations and easing of banking and travel restrictions. next, author lars schoultz presents a history of u.s. policy toward cuba since the cuban revolution and what he deems are the failures of 10 administrations. his book is titled "that infernal little cuban republic: the united states and the cuban revolution." this program was recorded in 2009.
>> i think there is a little truth in advertising to begin. i am not a cuba specialist. i study the u.s.-cuba relationship. what i would like to spend about 30 minutes doing now is focusing upon what intrigues me most about washington's policy toward cuba. that is the mental software we use to undergird our policy. and that's what the book is about. what it attempts to explain is what everyone agrees is a dysfunctional policy. but first, as wolf blitzer says on "the situation room," we have some breaking news. i want to talk a little bit about what president obama did yesterday. he announced a relaxation of the u.s. embargo of cuba.
this is an embargo that began in october, 1960. it was instituted by president eisenhower just a few days before the election between richard nixon and john kennedy. candidate nixon asked the president to do something to show some spine toward cuba and the embargo was the step that was taken. i think there's a little truth in advertising to begin. i am not a cuba specialist. i study the u.s.-cheaper relationship. what i would like to spend about 30 minutes doing now is focusing upon what intrigues me most about washington's policy toward cuba. that is the mental software we use to undergird our policy.
and that's what the book is about. what it attempts to explain is what everyone agrees is a dysfunctional policy. but first, as wolf blitzer says on "the situation room," we have some breaking news. i want to talk about what president obama did yesterday. he announced a relaxation of the u.s. embargo of cuba. this is an embargo that began in october, 1960. it was instituted by president eisenhower just a few days before the election between richard nixon and john kennedy. candidate nixon asked the president to do something to show some spine toward cuba and the embargo was the step that was taken. president obama yesterday
relaxed the embargo. the announcement was a product of several factors. one of them is he promised to do so on the campaign trail. in may of 2008 when he was still trying to get the democratic nomination, he went down to miami and spoke to a group of cuban-americans and he said i will relax the embargo to allow for more family visits and unrestricted remittances to families in cuba. and clearly, mr. obama is, as you know, a very bright man, but he has spent no time studying cuba so he was told to do this. this is while you are on the plane, "mr. obama, read this. this is what you are going to say to the cuban-americans when you land in 20 minutes." and what is generally the case although it has not been
confirmed, is mr. obama's pollsters looked at the data from south florida where there are about 800,000 cuban-americans. they said they want more family visits and to be able to send money to their families and that is what he promised to do in may. and here, shortly after taking office, he fulfilled his promise to the cuban-american community. it is also true the congress is seizing the initiative of the embargo. i don't know if you saw last week the black caucus from congress. it is composed of 42 members. six of them went down to cuba and they came back talking like senator richard lugar, the ranking republican on the senate foreign relations committee, like jeff flake, libertarian republican from arizona, member of the house of representatives.
there are several bills in front of congress right now to eliminate the travel restrictions entirely and a couple others to take steps to weaken the embargo. and then there is the problem that mr. obama has with the rest of the hemisphere. we are the only country that has an embargo of cuba, and the rest of the hemisphere is adamantly opposed. they look at us as a bullying neighbor. mr. obama on the friday has to go to the fifth summit of the americas in trinidad. he has already been told by the mexican and the brazilian president he was going to run into some really heavy criticism in trinidad if something can't be done for the embargo. there is still a long way to go.
it could go fast, it could go slow. and in his miami speech last may, candidate obama suggested it was going to go slow. he promised to keep the rest of the embargo, he said because united states needed to be a relentless advocate of democracy. but slowly or quickly, it is very clear that our current dysfunctional policy is coming to the end of its life. what do i mean by dysfunctional? i mean that the united states and cuba have not had normal relations since january 4, 1961. that was 11 presidents ago. in contrast, the u.s. estrangement from the soviet union after the bolshevik revolution and its estrangement
from the people's republic of china after the fall of chang, that lasted 16 and 22 years respectively. five presidents. we are on the 11th president in the case of cuba. and the united states did not simply decline to have normal relations with cuba for 48 years and still counting. but it's also spent most of the past half century openly and actively attempting to overthrow the government of cuba. now there is no similar estrangement in the history of u.s. foreign relations. you can go back to the days of thomas jefferson and george washington and can't find a similar estrangement. so the interesting question is the one i start out with in this book. what have we been trying to accomplish? at one level the explanation is easy.
we have been trying to protect our interests. that is what we always do. many of you take place i150, introduction to the foreign policy course, and we will say it all nations try to protect their interest. in the case of cuba, washington has been trying to protect economic interests. the second and much more important for many decades for over three decades by the united states was trying to protect its security, its interest in having a secure homeland. more recently, we have been trying to address concerns of u.s. politicians seeking the support of cuban-americans. it is not an accident that barack obama flew down and gave a talk to cuban-americans and only cuban-americans in may of 2008.
several hundred thousand of these cubans vote in the crucial state of florida. we don't know exactly how many vote incidentally because the registration in florida categorizes people as hispanic if they are hispanic, if they say they are. but it doesn't break down the hispanic adjective by any other term like cuban or mexican or whatever. but look, anyone who watched president george w. bush snatch the white house away from al gore in 2000 knows how important florida's 800,000 plus cuban-americans can be. that was the election -- if you remember, al gore lost the state of florida and the white house by 537 votes.
you know what al gore would have done for half those plus one? it was a lesson to other politicians. but look, florida has the fourth largest number of votes in the electoral college. the department of commerce which takes the census in this country, tells us after the census they believe florida will move into a tie with new york for electoral votes. but, look, this is how you would explain the forces driving u.s. policy toward any country. as a mixture of economic security and domestic political interest. what makes the cuban relationship so intriguing is the ideology, the belief that
underlie these everyday interests. we have a set of tightly structured beliefs that controls the way we react when we perceive a threat to our interests from cuba. think. do you work with computers? ok. you know you go in in the morning, turn on your computer. it boots up an operating system, windows probably, boots it up and very soon you have facing you on the screen a group of icons. one of them says e-mail, web another one says word and excel. you are all with me? ok. think of those in washington doing the same thing when they go into a room and the chair says we have a problem with cuba.
well, in just a second what everybody in that room does is they mentally move the mouse the cursor, over to the cuba icon and click on it. and what comes into their head the software in their head, is distinctly different than what would come into their head if the chairman had said we have a problem with the government of france. they would move it over to the french icon. it would not be like the cuban icon. what i would like to do for the few minutes that i have, i would like to focus on three important components of our cuba software. the first is the belief that with occasional bursts of attention we can safely neglect all those little countries that live down there beneath the united states. we are big, rich, and very powerful. cuba is obviously dwarfed by its
continent wide country. our economy is 250 times larger than the economy of cuba. i am six feet tall. i am not a mathematician. think of me as cuba and then think of a 1500-foot giant standing next to me. that is the economic relationship. in comparison, the empire state building is around 1200 feet. here i am. here is the empire state building plus a couple hundred feet. and imagine this economic giant has used a portion of its fabulous wealth to create the most powerful military in the history of the human race. and that raw strength has given
politicians, such as richard nixon during the campaign, the ability to tell voters -- he said the united states has the power, and mr. castro knows this, to throw him out of office. and that has also given cabinet members like secretary of state alexander haig the ability to ask president reagan for a simple green light. what he said, according to nancy reagan, is you just give me the word and i will turn that bleeping island into a parking lot. what would seem puzzling to a visitor from another planet is why when the cubans refused to behave the way we want them to the castro government was not thrown out of office. cuba wasn't turned into a
parking lot, how they managed to get away with it. we could squish them easily. how have we managed to get away with it? first of all, it is costly especially in the currency that might matter the most in the end which is global opinion. so unless there is a crisis like the cuban missile crisis of 1962, which i would be happy to talk about later if you like unless there is a crisis, why bother? we have so many other important things to do. you are living right now in the week where more attention has been given to cuba than any time since probably the shootdown of the rescue plan in 1996. this is an unusual moment. basically if someone goes up to a president like the first president bush after the cold war when the soviet union was gone, go up to a president like first president bush, president
clinton, second president bush or even now president obama and say, i would like to talk to you about cuba, i would say you would have a hard time getting on the agenda. he has so many other things to think about. and cuba's unimportance is also how you would explain when we finally decided we had to do something about cuba back in 1960, we decided to do it with a little sneaky invasion called the bay of pigs. give cuba a short burst of attention, and then we could go back to what's really important. we were convinced it would be a cakewalk. we really could squish them on the first week, the end of the first week of john kennedy's presidency, late january 1961. the cia gave president kennedy
intelligence analysis that said less than 30% of the population is still with fidel, and in the 30% are included the negroes who will not fight. it took j.f.k.'s best and brightest three months to find out they would fight at the bay of pigs. certainly we could subdue, but we are not going to be able to do it they discovered with a couple thousand cuban exiles we had trained in guatemala. we would have to do it ourselves with the marines, and they might have to turn the place into a parking lot. so what was plan b? well, first we went back to some sneaky ways. president kennedy went his way. but his brother, attorney general robert kennedy, watched over a program called operation mongoose which was essentially what we would call today
state-sponsored terrorism. it was torching sugar fields arming assassins, blowing up power stations. and it didn't work very well because we don't know how to destroy an economy without bombing it. using sabotage was hard because the cubans are good at their intelligence and were able to protect themselves. so what happened? what happened is lyndon johnson inherited the white house in 1963, and he was inexperienced in foreign affairs. he was a domestic president until he got caught up in vietnam so it took him ten days before he picked up the telephone and called jay william fulbright, a widely respected chair of the senate committee on foreign relations, a fellow southerner from arkansas, and a
brilliant man, a rhodes scholar. and lyndon johnson says, what should i do about cuba? we have tried to blow them up. we have tried this cheap invasion and so forth. what do you think i ought to do? senator fulbright began to reply to say let's not get into anything really dramatic. and he didn't even get the sentence out of the end of his mouth when lyndon johnson interrupted to agree with him. he said i'm not getting into any bay of pigs deal. i am just asking what we should do to pinch their nuts more than we are doing and that's been the u.s. policy ever since. that was the first week of december, 1963. it's what we do with insignificant aggravations like cuba. ok, for three decades the fight
to contain communism is what justified this policy. but then the cold war ended, and the justification for our hostility was really difficult to continue. it was hard to say we are going to keep being angry at you because of what? our anger was with the alliance with the soviet union, security interest. and it looks bad for a country that claims global leadership to be seen as strangling the economy of a small neighbor and for no good reason. the soviet union disappeared in 1991. in 1992 and every year since then, the u.n. general assembly voted in the fall on a resolution urging the united states to stop the embargo. the last vote was in september 2008.
the vote was 185-3. the three in the united states israel which has a completely separate problem with cuba and we can talk about it if you like a little bit later, but the united states, israel, and palau. do you all know where this is? i had to look on a map. it is in the far western pacific. basically you fly westward towards the philippines and before you get to the philippines, you stop and there is the island of palau. it is a very small country but it is a country and has a seat in the united nations. it doesn't have an ambassador. it has a new york attorney it hires to be its ambassador named stuart beck, and his instructions are to vote like the united states, so basically it is 185-2.
not only does it look bad, but there's a lot of people in the united states, the left end of the democratic party in particular, the left of the democratic party that put all of the fizz in the campaign mr. obama just ran. they don't like the embargo on cuba. if you read "the nation" magazine for example, take that wonderful magazine i recommend highly, you will see it speaks for a really important part of the democratic party. and they are not going to leave the party because mr. obama does this or doesn't do this in the case of cuba. where are they going to go? are they going to vote republican? they are going to be there, but they are not going to do the kind of work for mr. obama in 2012 they did in 2008.
there has to be a concern, you don't want those people to wander off just like you don't want the religious right to wander off from the democratic party if you are john mccain. remember the concern about that? the mobilizing the base issue? so first of all, it doesn't look good to be voted down 185-3. that's bad. second, you've got significant people in the democratic party who don't like what is going on in our policy towards cuba, and then you have business interests particularly agribusiness, the agricultural business is the strongest lobby by far that we have. agriculture will defeat anyone if they are unified, and they want to sell to cuba. very conservative groups. rice farmers from arkansas. pork growers.
have any have you been to cuba? cuba, every meal seems like it has rice and pork in it. and they are importing their rice from thailand. imagine the shipping differential from thailand. agribusiness wants that market back, so washington needs a good response to this criticism. and here comes the second belief in the cuba ideology. it is the firm conviction that we are responsible for uplifting cuba. i've been able to trace this back in the book to 1901 when congress passed the platt amendment. it granted the united states the right to take over cuba whenever it felt necessary for the protection of life, property and individual liberty. having passed the platt
amendment giving us the right to come back, we were already in cuba having taken over cuba from the spanish in 1898. 1901 comes the platt amendment. and in 1902, we leave. in 1906, we go back. there was too much instability in cuba and people asked president theodore roosevelt, a man who charged up san juan hill during the spanish-american war they asked president roosevelt what are you trying to do? and he was pointedly questioned before a harvard audience, and here is what he said to the harvard audience. "i am seeking the very minimum of interference necessary to make them good." and roosevelt's secretary of war, the man responsible for the takeover of cuba in 1906, said the same thing directly to cubans.
he presided over the reopening of the university of havana. he gave a speech and said we are here only to help you with our arm under your arm lifting you again on the path of wonderful progress. ok, fast forward to a more recent time, 1991. the soviet union had just disappeared and a reporter yelled out a question while mr. bush was walking by in the rose garden. he said, are you going to talk to fidel castro now that you have been successful with mikhail gorbachev? and mr. bush paused, turned around and said, "what's the point?" all i would tell him is what i am telling you. give the people the freedom they want, and then you will see the united states do exactly what we should. go down and lift those people up. president bush's immediate predecessor, ronald reagan
always said first before talking with him the cubans have got to kick out the russians. but now the russians were gone. the soviets were gone. what happened was clear in 1991 when the soviet threat disappeared. u.s. policymakers reached into the cabinet and pulled out the platt amendment. like teddy roosevelt and taft, today we insist cuba's leaders are misbehaving, that they are violating their citizens' human rights and the united states cannot stand by quietly and allow this misbehavior to continue. and that brings us to the third belief in the cuba ideology which underlies both the neglect and commitment to uplifting. the existential core of our policy towards cuba today is our view of the region's inhabitants
as a retarded a branch of the human species. as inferior. they are backward. my generation's word for latin americans has been "underdeveloped," which is a polite way of saying backward. or as a u.s. ambassador reported from havana as the cold war was beginning in the 1940's, he said cubans possess the superficial charm of clever children, but under the surface they combine the worst characteristics of the spanish and negro cultures -- laziness, cruelty, irresponsibility, and inbred dishonesty. it is probably a sign of progress our diplomats no longer write sentences like that.
but it has made writing this book a lot more difficult. what we have to do now is not look for people to say that they think cubans are an inferior people. you have to look at their words -- behavior and then infer that they think they are inferior. inferences from behavior are always risky. sometimes when my students look like they are about ready to fall asleep, i stop and say, "why are you here today?" i could guess and say what you are here for is because i told you attendance was important and therefore you wanted to please me because i have your grade in my hand. and if you don't pass this course, you will have to take another three-hour course before you can get your degree.
if you don't get your college degree, you won't get a good job. and if you don't get a good job you can't do this, that, and the other thing. i can make those inferences without hearing a word come out of the student's mouth. or i could say you are here today because of your first thirst for knowledge. not at 8:00 tuesday-thursday but that's another story. inferences from behavior are really risky. but for a quick minute, and then i will stop, let's look at our most recent plan for cuba's uplifting which was unveiled in 2004 by the president's committee for assistance to a free cuba. what would you say if venezuela were to create a committee to
improve the united states? and if the first chapter of that huge report the venezuelans produced, this is 423 pages, if the first chapter was called "hastening cuba's transition." it was 42 pages with 62 steps the united states is taking to overthrow the government of cuba now. well, we can talk about what you would say if venezuela did this to us. the really interesting question is, why did we concoct this 400-page report? look at the size of this. why is it the selection of cubans leaders is the first and most important of the six chapters?
hastening cuba's transition from its current government to a new government. well, why not? that is what we have been doing at least since 1901 when the governor general in charge of cuba during the period after spanish, but before independence, the governor general wrote to president roosevelt from havana saying no one wants more than i a good and stable government here, but we must see that the right class is in office. or ak barack obama said on the campaign trail last may, we've got to keep the embargo because the right people are not running cuba. the point in 1901 is the same point being made by president obama, and in a much more aggressive way by president bush's commission for a free cuba.
the point is if you leave them to their own devices, they will make poor choices. now, to our modern ears, that sounds presumptuous, right? you are too inferior to make the right choice, you don't know how to choose the right kind of leaders. leonard wood back in 1901 came and said that to president roosevelt. that sounds so presumptuous today that now we label this chapter "the 42-page chapter." we label it "hastening cuba's transition," which is a euphemism for getting rid of their current government and installing, we hope, a democratic government. ok, let me conclude. what are these three beliefs? our belief we can safely neglect
these countries down there and the caribbean. and when we can't neglect them second, we should uplift them. we have the obligation to lift them up. and third, the reason we have an obligation is because they are a retarded branch of the human species. what do these three beliefs tell about the years that lie immediately ahead? it says the best wager would be that eventually some cubans, probably the next generation will become convinced by the nut-pinching, the embargo, and accept a little uplifting. they will agree to do it our way. so after we've got the right class in office that allegedly is democratic, then you can expect to see an army of
contractors from the u.s. agency for international development, the national endowment for democracy, helping construct a new and improved country. maybe it will work this time. but at a discouraging moment 107 years ago, general leonard wood wrote back to president roosevelt. he said it is next to impossible to make them believe we have their own interests at heart. in this book, i look over the history of the past century and i ask, what lesson can be more obvious and more obviously unlearned than that cubans simply do not want to be uplifted by the united states of america? will we ever learn this lesson? i don't know. the mere existence of this document suggests my generation
doesn't even recognize the problem, that we would do this thinking we are helping cuba when clearly all we are doing is stiffening the resolve of cuban nationalists. imagine a 1500-foot giant standing next to me waving a 423-page document saying i have it all planned for you. what the cuban generation passing through the scene would have done is turned around and gave the giant the finger. i don't know whether that will continue. i am not a futurologist, but i think the road ahead is going to be pretty bumpy. those of us starting to get a little gray hair have given it our best shot. if my generation hasn't made as much progress as we would like it is not because we haven't
tried. it has been difficult to get anyone's attention. once you've got their attention to get them to control their compulsion to uplift because we think they are an inferior branch of the human species. well, look, you are no doubt happy to learn my half-hour of unremitting pessimism is up. maybe one or two of you could find a ray of sunshine, but i certainly apologize for being so negative and i thank you very much for listening to me. do you have any comments? [applause] >> what would it on take to undo the helms-burton act? [inaudible]
>> the helms-burton act is a 1996 act passed by republican congress and signed by a democratic president that codifies the embargo. until 1996, the embargo was an executive branch decision. there were presidential proclamations of an embargo and it changed with each administration. sometimes, it was weaker. sometimes, it was stronger. but in 1996, the cuban-american community working through an interesting group called the cuban-american national foundation. they went to senator jesse helms of north carolina, representative dan burton of indiana, and got congress to come this close to passing a bill that codified the embargo. we have had embargoes of various
countries like north korea. but it has always been a presidential embargo. the helms-burton act would codify, and president clinton said i will veto it. the constitution gives me, the chief executive, the president the right to conduct foreign policy. and this codifying of the embargo is an infringement upon my executive branch prerogatives. and that's where it stood until the castro government shot down two planes of the brothers of the rescue. they used to fly in the straits of florida looking for rafters and would radio back to the coast guard and say there is a rafter out there, grab that rafter. and then they also started flying over havana leafleting. and in 1996, two of their three planes in the international
waters were shot down by cubans. the helms-burton act requires the president to keep the embargo until cuba has embarked upon a series of steps. this is a very complex piece of legislation. it is about 30 pages long of single-spaced small font type. it says, for example, the president may not remove the embargo until cuba is moving toward a market economy. market economy, i can quote that. it doesn't define what a market economy is, but it is not what cuba has right now. but the president in theory is constrained. president obama cannot officially officially end the embargo without cuba doing these steps, 30 pages worth of steps
or congress repealing helms burton. i think frankly it will come to the president simply saying to the members of congress you have to understand i need to go ahead with this, please don't challenge me. senator helms was the chair of the senate committee on final relations. best foreign relations. dan burton was chair of the committee on western hemisphere affairs and these were two powerful people who wanted to strengthen the embargo. today one of the principal leaders of the effort to end the embargo as i said was richard lugar, republican senator from indiana, who was the ranking minority member on the committee on foreign relations. there is no chance that he would oppose ignoring the law. when president clinton signed the helms-burton act, he did it
in an auditorium. he invited the cuban-american community leaders to come up from miami. he did it in an auditorium in the old executive office building to the right of the white house when you are looking from the lafayette park. and in the signing ceremony, one of those where he had 25 pens. he wrote "w" and handed it to one of his campaign contributors and so forth. in the signing statement that he had attached to the law, he said i consider this law precatory. i had to look that up in the dictionary. it is advisory. it's the law and its explicit with what the cubans have to do to stop the embargo. but mr. clinton said i consider this law precatory.
if mr. obama were to end the embargo and someone challenged him on the basis of helms-burton, it would be possible to say mr. clinton said he never looked at this as what the words really say. and then you have an interesting court case because i don't think there has ever been a challenge to a signing statement that has gone all the way to the supreme court. nobody wants to fight with this president, folks. fighting with him is a really losing proposition right now. but he all by himself has said i am going to keep the embargo until cuba becomes a democracy. >> i enjoyed your talk by the way. you might touch on the cuban missile crisis. how influential do you think that is as far as our reluctance to open arms and be a neighbor trading and that sort of thing?
it seems it still hangs over us. >> i think it did. i am not sure that it still does, but unquestionably unquestionably to go through the archives of the kennedy library, the johnson library in austin, texas, is to be astounded by how worried everyone was. i was a college undergraduate in the cuban missile crisis. i was hanging around watching television and so forth, but they thought this was going to be like a 9/11 attack they could see coming at them and. there was a very worried washington, d.c. and then of course over time that faded into the past.
i took a flight three or four days after 9/11. i was terrified. it was just a flight. and i think the same thing happened with the cuban missile crisis over time. and once, of course, the soviet union disappeared, cuba was essentially neutered in terms of its ability. but i think there was a sense of betrayal that this man is really evil, that was cemented at the time as i read the documents and i spend an awful lot of time in presidential libraries reading the various advisers and so forth, and it is fascinating to do so. you get a sense that after the missile crisis there was not that this man is a communist.
he is dangerous, he doesn't like us, but that this man is really evil in a hitler type of fashion. he moved into a new category on the cuban missile crisis. but of course, all of that is gone. i think that is gone now. but your reputation follows you through the years. >> i just want to say something. i'm not from this country although i am a u.s. citizen. i am from south america, bolivia. and i remember as a student, we never understood about these embargoes. our professors could never explain why the united states would do that to that small nation. they said that was something that had to do with the politics of washington looking up to this leader which was a very smart, bright person. but however, the united states never put embargoes on the other
nations like china, vietnam. we don't understand why did he pick this little nation that hurt them in a way. we thought it was a very imperialistic attitude. a lot of people don't like the u.s. policies. people want to fix government and say you need to be a democratic country. you need to do this. it's like commanding them. the united states is a powerful country but has no right to decide for other nations what they want to do. >> i think you can tell i couldn't agree with you more. this omnipotent syndrome, my generation was reared by the people who won world war ii. they had an all or nothing total victory. we wanted unconditional surrender of our adversaries
and that is the way my generation who fought the war raised people like me. and my sense is that sense of entitlement that we had lasted in large measure because the soviet union really was powerful. nikita khrushchev in 1956 said "we will bury you." and that was said by a man whose finger rested on a nuclear button. regardless of how horrible those 9/11 attacks were, their best shot was to fly a couple of airplanes into buildings. nikita khrushchev, i'm sure we would have destroyed him, too, but this could have been armageddon. the problem is explaining policy after the end of the cold war
when this threat -- cuba was 90 miles away. you take off from miami national -- miami international airport and go into the wind toward the east, turn right, and there is cuba. in five minutes, you see cuba. it's one thing to have a missile fired at you from the peninsula over above japan. it is another thing to have it fired at you from cuba. they could destroy our strategic bombers before they could get their engines started. it really was a legitimate worry. after the end of the cold war, my sense is what happened -- we are talking about 1990, 1991 -- is the defense interests walked out the door of the cuba policy, they just left. george h.w. bush, the first president bush, named as assistant secretary of defense
for latin america a woman named nancy dorn. she was 31-years-old. she had no experience in latin america. she did not speak spanish, but she was the only republican who asked for the job and she got it. president kennedy, president nixon, president johnson never would have given -- that position always went to someone who was experienced and competent who you had confidence in because latin america was a problem. after the end of the cold war -- there is nothing wrong with nancy dorn. she's not stupid. i don't mean that. it's important for me to emphasize she is a bright human being, but she just is not the kind of person you would put in that job before the end of the cold war. the cold war ended. people walked out the door, and into that space came the
cuban-american community. who we have polling figures that go back now for more than a decade and a half and it is very clear the cuban-american community is beginning to disaggregate. but until recently, it cast its vote on the basis of which party would be more hostile to the government of the country from which they emigrated, which is unusual when you think about the irish-americans or the italian-americans. they voted the bread-and-butter issues when they ran for office. up in boston, they ran on the basis of delivering the goods and services to their constituents. the cuban-american leaders until recently ran on the basis of, "i will be more effective in getting washington to be hostile to the castro government."
let me if i can filibuster your question for a second. in 2004, mr. bush was running for reelection. he had last won florida by 537 votes. in 2004, he tightened the embargo to restrict family visits and remittances. now, he had pollsters that were every bit as competent as the pollsters that helped president obama win the white house last november. mr. bush doesn't know what is in the mind of cuban-americans. how can i get you to vote for me in 2004? his pollsters told him tighten the embargo, and he did. in 2008, mr. obama's pollsters, every bit as competent, told him
relax the embargo. going into the cuban-american community, the pollsters discovered that they were unhappy about being unable to visit their families and send their family money. and you can see when you leave. when you go to leave havana, you go through immigration and customs and into a waiting room before you go to board the plane and sit there. it is a room about as big as this room. there are people crying, just devastated because with the bush tightening they knew they were seeing their mother for the last time. their mother was old. they can't go back for three years. if there is a funeral, no extenuating circumstances will let you go back. and i think that is what
controlled u.s. policy until recently. now the cuban-american community is all over the place. if you look at them demographically, cuban-americans they are about 1.3 million according to the 2000 census. there are about 1.3 million cuban-americans living in the united states. if you go through the breakdown, they should be democrats. there are very republican types of demographics among some cuban-americans. but the typical cuban-american works in a hotel changing bed linen. they work in airports. if you've ever been in miami airport, they are the people that take your tickets or handle baggage. that is a democratic constituency. they belong to the democrats not the republicans, and i think they are starting --
>> -- something to improve the relations and release the embargo. >> i am hopeful. look, yesterday was encouraging. it is an encouraging first step. what is discouraging is this statement about we have to be the relentless advocate of democracy, and therefore we have to continue the embargo. that is what is discouraging because it puts you in the mindset of people like general leonard wood. he says we have to write the platt amendment because the cubans can't do this by themselves. >> what kind of questions do you think obama is going to face when he meets the leaders of the council of the americas? >> questions on cuba or in general? >> questions on america's foreign policy.
>> i think they are going to give him the clearest sailing imaginable. he defused the cuba question which could have been the big question. let me go back if i could a couple of years. the whole concept of the summit of the americas was created in the early 1990's by president clinton. the first meeting was in miami i believe 1993, 1994. this is the fifth. the fourth was held in argentina in 2004 before the holidays. i think it was either late november or early december. hugo chavez was there riling up the crowd. i got a call. i was home writing this book and a friend called me and said turn on c.n.n. they are burning down the plaza and rioting against president bush's policy toward latin
america. all of it, from the drug war to the immigration procedures to cuba, you name it, but especially trade they were protesting against. you watch. look, mr. obama, regardless of where you are politically, you have to look at the way he's handling himself and being handled, being advised, by his senior people. and i think it is just remarkable. i don't know if you are aware on thursday he isn't just flying air force one from andrews air force base back to trinidad. where is he going? he is going to haiti on thursday. and he is going to stay there a few hours and get back on air force one and go to the dominican republic. then to trinidad. as far as i know, no u.s.
president has ever stepped foot in haiti. has anyone? i don't think so. it is a brilliant stroke. it is a real statement that i, president obama, care about haiti, which as you know, it is just a terribly sad humanitarian story. you wait and watch the applause, unless something -- famous last words. don't let a political scientist predict the future. we always mess it up. but i would put a significant part of my next month's paycheck on that he gets as clear a ride as he got in europe last week. we will see. hugo chavez -- we will see. let's just see. listen, you have all been kind. i appreciate you coming and
thank you so much for listening to me. [applause] >> this afternoon, we feature "tried by fire," an episode of "the big extra" narrated by paul newman. december marks the 70th anniversary of the battle of the bulge. the film chronicles the story of the 84th infantry division during the battle, that's today at 4:00 p.m. eastern time here on c-span three possible american history tv. >> anita abernathy the widow of martin luther king's confidant ralph abernathy played a role in the civil rights movement. she reflects on her experience and that of many other women civil rights activist who she believes were often overshadowed why the male leadership. she spoke and took questions from the audience at the southern